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November 17, 2005

Sleeping Patterns

As I've mentioned, I'm having trouble with sleep at the moment. I decided that researching alternative sleeping patterns might be a good move. Here's some of the better ideas:

The 28-hour day is designed to provide more free time. The main advantages are that I'll have more time; more time for work, and more time for hobbies. The fundamental disadvantages are that during the middle of the week my days won't line up with everyone elses. This means I won't be free to meet college people or anything, and it will destroy aforementioned social life.

Here's a diagram of how it works.

Polyphasic sleep patterns work on the principal that only one phase of sleep is really essential for survival. That phase is the period of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) during which we dream. Since this only tends to take 20 minutes at a time, the idea of polyphasic sleep is that you only sleep for 20 minutes at a time. Eventually your body figures out what's going on, and you'll slip into REM sleep the moment you shut your eyes. You end up taking 20 minute naps about every four hours, which means you only sleep for about 3 hours or so in total.

This is seriously useful stuff. So long as you get a nap reasonably often, you can be slightly flexible with the times, and this means I can live life pretty much normally. The major disadvantage is that it takes some getting used to. I might try it next holiday when I've got time. Here's another description of what goes on.


At the moment I'm suffering a little bit due to lack of regular sleeping patterns. It's hard at university to maintain regular sleep, due to the pressures of work and social life.

As an example, I was quite proud to have stayed up until 5.00am on Monday working. I got all the work done that I needed to for a supervision. Unfortunately, having done all the work I got quite bored in the supervision itself, and started arguing with the supervisor...

One of the problems at Cambridge is that the supervisors mostly tend to be young people. Most of my supervisors tend to be PhD students, luckily with a little bit of knowledge, but every now and again you hit a "dud." I have heard of supervisors who only graduated the year before! Although these young people know the course itself quite well, they don't have the in-depth knowledge of the subject which is required for teaching. Often one asks a question and gets blank looks, or an answer which is incomplete but makes you shut up. This was the problem with the chap the other day.

The problem was that he was using exactly the same set of lecture notes that I was, and we often didn't agree about minor points. Time and again we'd go back to the lecture notes and check. He didn't know them well enough to provide answers, and I rapidly lost faith in his ability to teach me anything.

Most supervisors are quite good, however, and some are truly brilliant. In my previous years of university I've had some really good teachers. This year is more of a problem, however, with the department offering 40 or so different courses, making it very hard to find enough people to teach.

I don't know if there's a way to solve my problem at the moment short of putting a lower age limit on supervisors. Young students will always be attracted to the job as it pays a little and helps them through study. Older students, for example Fellows or even Professors have less need of the cash. I always knew the answer would be financial.



I seem to have email access again, which means I waste a whole lot less time on the computer. The only problem seems to be that I'll have to do more work to use up the spare time I've got!

Let's hope it's not temporary.

November 16, 2005


I thought I'd provide a software review for your delectation. I'm new to the field, so please don't be too scathing!

One of the things I find about applications, is I like them to go "swish." They need to be slick, well-oiled, do the job they're built for, and look pretty. Thus I find that Trillian joins the ranks of Microsoft Visual Studio and Mac OS X (please note that VS looks better in real life)!

Trillian is an instant-messaging application which acts as a client for MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, AIM, and IRC chat services. As such, it's incredibly useful for people who use more than one of these services, as they now only need to use one application.

By far the best feature for me, however, is the email account system. The application will give a count of messages in my Inbox, and not only that but on a click of the mouse it will open Internet Explorer and load it, having signed in automatically! That saves a ridiculous amount of time (and possibly leaves a small security hole, since the password is stored in plain text on my computer, but I'm sure it will be fine.....)

I've never used IRC, but look forward to trying it out later. I'm sure it'll be a voyage of discovery (maybe).

Yahoo! (again)

You may remember that I've had my problems with Yahoo! Mail before. Although I really quite like the service, I'm currently having enormous trouble reaching my mailbox.

For a long time, I assumed it was a problem at my end, especially as I'd just installed Trillian, an instant-messaging application. (More about that later).

Despite rebooting, clearing out the cache, deleting history items (I find having lots in the history can slow IE down), nothing improved the situation.

I was rather relieved therefore, to find that I'm not the only one. Now all I need to do is find a contact email address for Yahoo so I can moan at them...

November 07, 2005

Poetry Day